How to behave in a statement
Giving a formal deposition testimony can be stressful if you are not prepared. If you are anxious or insecure, those emotions will affect your appearance and can negatively affect your credibility. You may appear evasive or unable to remember, when in fact you are too nervous or too surprised. Here are some ways to maximize your deposition performance:
1. Watch a training video for witnesses facing testimony. There is nothing like “being there”. Your attorney should provide you with such a video upon request. Several companies produce these “prep” videos. The video should be one that simulates an actual deposition process. You should point out the difficulties and opportunities on how to answer the questions.
2. Ask your attorney questions about the process well in advance of the declaration date. What are the issues in the case and how is the attorney taking the deposition likely to address those issues in the deposition? You can be sure that the attorney is looking for more than information. You want “admissions” that the attorney can use to make or defeat the case. An admission could be, for example, in an employment case, the answer “Yes” to the question: “Did you agree with this writing? [Exhibit “A”] who was an “at will” employee?
3. Listen carefully to the scope of the question. Just answer the question. Avoid blurting out long answers. They only invite more questions going down trails that you better have avoided.
4. Practice a mock deposition with your attorney and let your attorney “mistreat” you a bit with aggressive or deceptive questioning. That is the best way to learn. Your attorney should initiate such a prep session, but if he doesn’t, ask for it.
5. Whatever happens, be friendly and polite. Avoid being sarcastic or argumentative. Being rude or angry will cost you points to the judge or jury. Most of the statements are now videotaped, so anticipate that your face will tell a story, as well as your words.
6. Lawyers can ask the dumbest questions or the most complex, complex and confusing questions. If you get a question that you don’t fully understand, don’t answer it. Instead, ask for clarification and explain that you don’t understand the question.
7. If you need time to fully examine a document that was placed before you at the deposition, take the time. Don’t be too quick to answer questions about a document that you don’t remember or have not fully reviewed.
8. Memory is notoriously poor over time. Do not say with certainty that you remember things that you cannot remember clearly. Instead say, “I don’t remember” or “My best guess is …” Avoid guessing.
9. Rest and be as focused as possible. Do not be under the influence of medications. If you are tired during a bowel movement and cannot concentrate, ask for a break.
10. If attorneys object, let them complete the objection for the record and, unless your attorney instructs you not to respond, complete their response. If the attorneys get into a shouting match, or engage in a lengthy exchange of arguments about a point of law on the record, let them finish, while you wait patiently for the answer to a question.
These ten points won’t make the process particularly fun, but they will give you a greater sense of confidence and control to complete the process to your advantage. Not listed is the best obvious tip of all: Tell the truth.